Zero woke up with a groan, his head and body feeling like they'd just been trampled on by a herd of elephants. He was lying flat on his back, staring up at a very familiar ceiling as he tried to piece together what had just happened. The last thing he remembered was hearing someone cry out his name, a blinding flash of light, and then...nothing.
Pushing himself off the floor, Zero clumsily reached out with a hand and grappled around for support. His fingers brushed against fabric, and Zero clung onto the material as he slowly dragged himself off the ground and blinked furiously to restore his vision. It looked like he was somehow back in his own house, though he could not remember how he had gotten home. As he steadied himself against the couch -- because that was what he had been grabbing onto, apparently -- his memories slowly trickled in.
Zero had been called to help supervise a last minute sort of training session at the Hunter Association headquarters. It took him a while to convince Kaname to let him go, and it was only with the promise that he would return before the countdown and a rather passionate goodbye kiss on the doorstep that he was finally able to get out of the house.
He flushed at the memory.
Frankly speaking, Kaname's recent behavior had been worrying him. After their argument last year on Christmas Eve, something about Kaname changed. He was far more affectionate with Zero than he had ever been previously, and that included the times the two lovers were in the public eye. And while he was generally still his same composed, regal self in front of everyone else, he had transformed into an almost completely different person in the privacy of their home. Zero knew that Kaname was naturally a possessive person (the pureblood had shamelessly admitted as much), but there was a sort of frenzied desperation in his words and actions that hadn't existed before.
Kaname had also taken to working from home, often tasking Ichijou or Aidou to attend meetings in his place. Yet, if Zero ever had to travel somewhere on a mission, Kaname was never far behind, claiming that coincidentally there was some kind of business he had to take care of in the same exact area.
It was honestly...stifling.
Zero was someone who valued his own independence and sense of self, and as much as he loved Kaname, he felt like he was suffocating under the avalanche of Kaname's attention. However, his personal discomfort was overridden by his concern. Kaname was clearly spooked by something, and he was worried enough to be obvious about it. Zero had tried patiently waiting to see if Kaname would come clean about whatever was bothering him, but Kaname stayed silent on the topic. Whenever Zero did try bringing it up, Kaname would always distract him with a well-timed kiss, and he would soon be preoccupied with something far more pleasant.
The sound of the front door opening startled Zero out of his thoughts. He immediately tensed, hand instinctively diving inside his coat to reach for Bloody Rose. When he saw who it was coming through the door, Zero relaxed and shoved the gun back in its holster.
As he stepped out from the living room to greet his lover, he frowned at Kaname's all black attire. "Did you just get back from a funeral?"
The brunet looked up, startled, and he seemed to freeze in shock at the sight of Zero standing in the foyer.
Zero grew more and more uncomfortable as the silence dragged on and Kaname continued to stare at him silently from the doorway.
"Zero…?" the pureblood murmured at last.
Before Zero could ask what was wrong, Kaname was striding forward and stepping right up into Zero's personal space. Zero stayed still as Kaname cupped his face with two trembling hands, the other man's eyes sweeping over his face again and again. "Have I gone mad at last?" his lover said quietly, voice shaky and uncertain. "Are you yet another illusion, sent here to torment me and remind me of my greatest mistake?"
Something was wrong.
This was not the Kaname he knew. His Kaname didn't stare at him with a haunted look in his eyes. His Kaname wasn't this hollow shell of a man standing before him. And yet…
"I'm home, Kaname," Zero raised one of his own hands to cover Kaname's. He didn't understand what was going on, but all his senses were telling him that the familiar stranger in front of him was indeed the same man he loved.
At his touch, Kaname pressed closer and whatever little space had existed between them was gone. His hands grasped Zero's, bringing it up to his lips. He kissed the palm of Zero's hand, and Zero was startled to hear Kaname's chuckle of despair. "You're not," his lover whispered, letting go and then wrapping his arms around Zero. "And you're not him. Zero would never tell me a kind lie, because the only person he is not honest with is himself."
Zero tried to put some distance between them to get a better look at the pureblood, but Kaname was persistent and captured Zero's lips with his in a feverish kiss as soon as Zero managed to pull back. "You even taste like him," Kaname said when they finally parted for air, his eyes melancholic and his smile bitter. "If I must embrace madness to have you in my arms again, then I will gladly release all hold on my sanity." He didn't wait for Zero to respond before delving right back into Zero's mouth.
By the time Zero finally regained his senses, his shirt was half unbuttoned and falling off one shoulder.
"Mmph -- Kaname, wait!"
He covered Kaname's mouth with one hand, ignoring the desperate kisses Kaname continued to shower his palm with. His other hand captured Kaname's, aborting the other's attempts to finish unbuttoning his shirt. "Kaname," Zero said firmly, his tone stopping Kaname in his place. "What's wrong?"
Silence reigned. Kaname didn't respond to Zero's question and continued to stare at him with those sad, sad eyes. Zero waited patiently for a response, holding Kaname's gaze steadily. Kaname then apparently came to some kind of conclusion, because the arm wrapped around his waist tightened and the brunet's expression cleared.
"You aren't lying," his lover whispered in a hushed wonder, a fledgling hope taking flight in his eyes. "But how is this possible?"
Kaname still wasn't making any sense. Zero had too many questions, so he settled for asking just the one.
"Kaname, why did you think I was lying to you?"
There was another moment of silence before Kaname spoke up.
"Because my husband passed away ten years ago."
Zero sat back in his seat, a steaming cup of tea warming his hands as he struggled to process what he had just learned.
After he successfully convinced Kaname that he was very much real and present in the flesh, Kaname revealed to him that Zero's accident at the training session had somehow propelled him forward in time. Apparently whatever blend of hunter spells he had been hit with clashed at the same time and accidentally transported him almost sixty years into the future. The pureblood sitting in front of him was his widowed husband, still grieving the loss of his other half ten years after the fact.
What could he even say in the face of all these revelations?
Kaname was staring at him like he wasn't sure if he believed Zero was truly there in front of him, and Zero couldn't bear the intense longing and hopeless adoration in Kaname's eyes. He cast his gaze around the dining room, trying desperately to think of something to say that wasn't related to his impending death or Kaname's reaction to it.
"Everything still looks the same," Zero remarked at last, setting the cup down. "It's almost like nothing's changed."
Across the table, Kaname smiled wanly. "Nothing has," he replied, never taking his eyes off Zero. "I've kept everything the way it was sixty years ago."
Zero was silent for a while, wrapping his head around the implications of Kaname's statement. At last, he reached for Kaname's hand across the table and covered it with his own. "Kaname," he began, trying helplessly to find the right things to say. "That's...you can't -- shouldn't be living in the past like this.You won't ever be happy living a lie."
The house, though lovingly preserved, spoke volumes about a man who was haunted by the memories of his past and his unwillingness to let his ghosts go. It was no way to live. How many days had Kaname passed in quiet agony, forcing himself to stay in this twisted museum and waiting for a lover that would never come back?
Kaname was once again the lonely King, ruling from an empty throne. Only his kingdom was not a sprawling network of cities, but instead this suffocating shrine that reminded him everyday of the most precious things he had lost.
It was Kaname's turn to clasp Zero's hand in his as he cradled the hunter's fingers. The pureblood's smile grew into something gentle and warm. "But I am happy, Zero."
Zero had seen the look of devastation and sorrow on the pureblood's face when he first walked through the door.
"These memories of you...they’re all I have left." The grip on his hand tightened. "That's enough for me."
The more Zero tried to convince Kaname to let go of his self-destructive habits, the more stubborn Kaname became. In the end, Zero was forced to conclude there was nothing he could do. His future self's death had caused something to break inside the pureblood, and Zero wasn't sure how -- or if -- the damage could be repaired.
Defeated, Zero sat back and observed Kaname quietly from his seat. Since there was no changing Kaname's mind, Zero decided to switch topics.
"Do you know how I can get back?" Zero asked, tapping his fingers against the table. The surrealness of the situation was starting to wear off and it was quickly replaced by worry. Watching this Kaname's reactions reminded Zero of his own Kaname and the promise he had made to his pureblood.
As he asked his question, Kaname's smile froze and something dark briefly fluttered across the brunet's face. Zero tensed, his internal alarms screaming at him as Kaname's aura expanded around them and wrapped around Zero like a cocoon. In the next second, the oppressive presence dissipated just as abruptly as it had appeared.
Kaname smiled blandly.
"Ah. Please forgive my lapse in control. I was caught off guard by your question."
They stared at each other. Zero slowly nodded, unconvinced but unwilling to push the pureblood further. The next few moments they spent in silence as Zero waited for Kaname to answer his question.
"We'll have to look through the Kuran family library," Kaname said at last, an indecipherable expression on his face.
The Kuran ancestral home was exactly as Zero had remembered it: a foreboding, unwelcoming, and cold fortress of solitude.
Kaname -- his Kaname -- had taken him here once, telling Zero that there was something important he wanted to show to the hunter. During that visit, the pureblood was quiet during the car ride to the estate, his eyes gazing out to some faraway place. Their tour through the Kuran family home was punctured by silence, with Kaname occasionally sharing stories of what had taken place at the manor prior to its abandonment.
Zero disliked being there. It had been a miserable day; Kaname had fallen into a melancholic mood, his mind miles away as they passed through the halls and walked among ghosts. They had passed through the sprawling grounds, Kaname occasionally pointing out a few of the more memorable gardens. His lover had then stopped rather abruptly when they reached the edges of his mother's favorite rose garden, his eyes looking out to the barren hill in front of them as if he was seeing something else. Nothing Zero said or did could lift his pureblood's spirits.
The same dispiriting bleakness clung to them as Zero followed this Kaname through the oppressive manor, their footsteps echoing in the empty corridors. When Kaname threw open the library doors, Zero's heart sank at the sight that greeted them. The 'library' was in the same state of disarray as it had been sixty years ago, books shoved haphazardly onto random shelves or spilling across dusty tables. Zero distinctly remembered his Kaname telling him that there was no particular rhyme nor reason to the way the books were scattered across the room; his parents hadn't made much use of the 'library' and after Ridou's attack there was no one left to take care of the place.
"It will probably take a while to find what we're looking for," Kaname informed him, confirming Zero's assumption that Kaname indeed had not gone back and tried cataloging anything in the library.
The hunter glanced at the towering shelves that surrounded them, his heart falling as he realized the magnitude of their task.
He sighed resignedly, picking up a nearby tome and staring down at the yellowed pages. "We'd better get started then."
Four hours later, Zero was starting to lose hope. They had barely made a dent in the vast collection of texts, and each tick of the large clock on the wall as well as the diminishing light was a harsh reminder that Zero didn't have much time left before nightfall. He was afraid that even if they did find a way to somehow send him back, it would be far too late. New Years was rapidly approaching, and he doubted they would discover a solution before the clock struck twelve.
He slid back the unlabeled book he had been perusing, then slumped against the shelf. Breaking his promise and leaving Kaname alone on New Years left a bad taste in his mouth. The last thing Zero wanted to do was to make Kaname feel abandoned, but he feared he didn't have much of a choice in the matter this time.
"Is it so bad to stay here and greet the new year with me?" Kaname asked softly, coming up from behind Zero with a large volume in his hands. The pureblood was smiling, but his eyes were sad.
Zero didn't know how to respond. Truth to be told, he disliked the idea of leaving this Kaname alone just as much, but…
"He needs me," Zero said eventually, clasping his hands together. "He doesn't do well when he's alone."
Kaname took step forward.
"I need you."
"I don't do well when I'm alone."
The pureblood set down the book he was carrying and reached for Zero instead. "My lover is right here, yet all he wants to do is rush away from me." He laughed, and it was a bitter sound. "You're leaving me again, but this time I'm actively helping you."
It was --
Everything was --
Zero pulled away, blindly heading towards where he thought the library doors were.
He knew Kaname wasn't accusing him of anything, but he couldn't help but think that it was his fault for putting the pureblood in such a difficult position. He probably wasn't going to make it back in time to celebrate New Years with his Kaname, but every second he spent here only served to torment this Kaname and remind him of what he had lost.
Zero stormed off in a hurry, allowing his feet to take him where they wanted.
It pained him to think of how his circumstance affected both versions of his lover. He understood that the amount of guilt he was currently experiencing was hardly rational given his lack of control over the situation. Logically, Zero knew that there wasn't much he could do, but the heart was a fickle thing and rarely listened to reason. As absurd as it sounded, he felt like the only way to fix the situation was to be away from Kaname right now.
There was some part of him that was screaming how idiotic that conclusion was, but Zero wasn't sure if he could handle being around Kaname knowing that he was hurting the pureblood just by existing. It brought back too many painful memories of the time he was still struggling with his bloodthirst, waiting to fall into the inevitable madness that awaited him. During that time, he also tried to push away the few people he cared for, and when he wasn't able to do so he ended up hurting them.
Lost in his thoughts, Zero was abruptly pulled back to reality when he stumbled across a surprising sight. Most of the gardens had been barren or buried in snow, but ahead of him he could spot bright purple blooms peeking out of the ground. He crossed the flower-covered hill carefully, trying to remember which one of the numerous Kuran gardens this was. As he stared, stumped, he noticed there was a strange singular slab of stone nestled amongst the flowers at the foot of the hill.
Zero slowly walked towards it, realizing that he was looking at a tombstone. He paused in brief surprise, not expecting something so...personal all the way out here. If he remembered correctly, Kaname had told him that generations of Kurans were laid to rest inside the Kuran family mausoleum. So why was there a grave in the gardens? And whose grave was it?
Kneeling down, Zero carefully reached out to brush aside the bright yellow flowers that were covering the inscription.
Here lies Zero, beloved hunter and husband.
To my dearest one, I will always be by your side.
Kaname's back was turned to the doorway, the pureblood stilling as he heard Zero's footsteps approach the library.
"I'm sorry," Zero said quietly. "I shouldn't have just walked out and left you in here like that."
His mind was still spinning with the revelation that Kaname had chosen to bury him here, at the Kuran ancestral home and among a field of flowers whose colors were reminiscent of Zero's eyes. Zero was pretty certain that the hill of purple flowers had not existed when his Kaname first brought him to the Kuran estate, which meant that either Kaname himself or the two of them came back here together to design and plant the garden. It was clearly something special to the pureblood.
Finally, Kaname turned around, and his smile looked painful and forced. "Don't be," he replied. "I understand. I'm not your Kaname."
That wasn't fair.
It was true that this Kaname wasn't his Kaname, but the same applied in reverse -- Zero wasn't this Kaname's deceased partner. Just as how Zero was disappointed that he was unable to reunite with his lover before New Years, he was sure that this Kaname was disappointed that the Zero who appeared before him wasn't actually the version of the hunter he loved and missed. It wasn't fair that they were standing right in front of each other, completely unable to see the other for who they were.
"No, you're not," Zero nodded in agreement. He stepped up to Kaname, reaching out and gently touching the pureblood's cheek. "But that doesn't mean you aren't important to me."
Kaname froze, sienna eyes watching Zero with wariness.
"You're not my Kaname, but I'm not your Zero. But since we're both here, let's make the best of our time together."
He wasn't sure if his trip to the future was a temporary occurrence that would correct itself or if he was stuck here forever. Regardless, Zero was determined to make his time here meaningful. His hand fell from Kaname's cheek to grab at the other's hand.
Zero didn't want to stay here any longer, not with all the ghosts lingering in the air and Kaname's lonely shrine to him out in the gardens. The bright yellow bouquets that had surrounded the -- his -- tombstone were like devoted offerings, giving the place a more horrifying slant. Zero didn't want to think about how many bundles of flowers his lover had placed at his grave, tidying the place meticulously every time the flowers started to wilt. It was too lonely of a thought.
"Let's go home. It's almost New Years, and we should celebrate properly."
They returned to the home that Kaname and Zero had shared together, the two of them sitting down side by side while the pot in front of them bubbled and gurgled cheerfully. When Zero asked Kaname what he wanted to eat for dinner, the pureblood had answered, "hotpot," without any hesitation. Zero was a little surprised that Kaname would choose to say so, because he distinctly remembered his own pureblood lover preferring a more traditional spread for New Years.
And so, together, they pulled out the old pot from one of the top shelves in the kitchen cabinets. Zero was pleasantly surprised to find the kitchen fully stocked, with Kaname admitting with an amused smile that he had taken up cooking in Zero's absence.
There was an awkward moment as they stared at each other, still unable to really discuss the elephant in the room. It wasn't that Zero couldn't embrace the concept of his own death, but it was something he struggled with after Kaname became his lover. He knew he didn't have much time to spend with Kaname, and he knew that the pureblood would have to deal with Zero's inevitable death someday. It was just much more jarring to see how Kaname had really reacted in the event of his death.
He had no idea that it would affect Kaname to such an intense degree.
They quickly returned to some semblance of normal after exchanging quick looks and hesitant smiles. With Kaname helping him out in the kitchen, Zero was able to whip up a quick hotpot stock and chop all the vegetables in no time. Kaname had not held back on the expenses; there were some truly impressive cuts of meat and a fine selection of high quality vegetables available.
As they ate, making small talk, Zero prompted, "Why did you choose hotpot? I thought you would have wanted something more traditional."
Kaname paused, his chopsticks hovering above a piece of pork belly.
"It is tradition. One that you and I decided on together." He smiled, picking up the pork and depositing it into Zero's bowl. "Back when we first decided to start doing this, it was one of the few rare times you allowed me to help you with the cooking. I know how much you enjoy cooking, and being able to share in that joy with you...it was something I treasured greatly."
That explained a few things. Zero was initially surprised to hear that the older versions of himself and his lover had decided on hotpot of all things as a tradition, considering Kaname's skills -- or lack thereof -- when it came to anything related to the kitchen. In fact, after their first disastrous attempt at hotpot (in which Kaname burned himself horrendously and overcooked the meat), they had unanimously agreed that maybe they would have to revisit hotpot at another time. While Kaname had numerous talents, his aptitude for art and cooking left something to be desired.
The rest of dinner was spent in amiable conversation, with Kaname sharing the different things he had picked up during his time together with Zero. It was a little lonely to think about how the pureblood could no longer do some of these things with his Zero, but Zero decided to let Kaname keep talking when he noted the gentle smile and wistful nostalgia in Kaname's eyes. If it really made Kaname happy to talk about these fond memories, then Zero would be here to listen.
After they cleared the table, they sat down in the living room together, watching the grandfather clock tick closer and closer towards the new year. As the minute hand crawled towards the twelve, Kaname turned his head and pressed a chaste kiss to Zero's cheek, then his temple.
"Happy new year, dearest," the pureblood whispered, something heavy in his voice.
Zero closed his eyes, trying not to think about his own Kaname and how lonely his lover would be, watching the new years countdown by himself. "Happy new year, Kaname," the hunter whispered back, craning his neck and pressing his lips against the underside of Kaname's jaw.
They stayed like that, curled around each other's warmth. Eventually, Kaname reached for one of Zero's hands, twining his fingers around Zero's. The hunter noted with faint alarm that the pureblood's aura was once again leaking, slowly expanding and filling the room around them.
"Stay here with me." Kaname stated, his voice quiet but firm. It wasn't a command, but his tone didn't leave room for argument either. "Don't leave." His oppressive presence enveloped the two of them, wreaking havoc on Zero's senses. Zero tried not to let any of his discomfort show on his face.
"What do you mean?"
Kaname gestured around them. "Stay here, with me, in this house. The person you're trying to return to...he's me, isn't he? Would it really be so wrong for you to be here with me then? Going back..shouldn't matter, right?" He pulled Zero forward, the hunter tumbling into his lap. Kaname let go of Zero's hands only to wrap his arms around Zero's back in a cage like grip. His aura flared out in a similar manner, "I won't allow you to leave me again. I don't care if I have to be cruel or merciless, I'll make sure you won't think of going anywhere else."
"...Don't do this to yourself, Kaname."
Perhaps he should have been alarmed by Kaname's display, but Zero knew that the pureblood wasn't in his right mind. Hadn't been, not since his Zero passed away.
"You have to let me go."
Kaname's arms tightened around him, fingers digging into Zero's back. Around them, Kaname's aura became heavy and suffocating.
"That's not living. It's just a dream that seems beautiful right now, but it's nothing more than a lie."
Zero reached up, weaving his fingers through Kaname's hair gently. Kaname leaned into his touch, enjoying the feeling of Zero's fingers stroking his hair.
"And you know that's not true. You might be Kaname, but he's Kaname too. I made a promise to him. I can't -- won't -- leave him just like that. I already broke my promise to be back in time to spend New Years with him; I don't intend to break my promise to go home to him."
The ominous presence around them slowly abated, and Kaname's vice like grip around Zero relaxed. They remained tangled together on the sofa, Kaname's somber mood making Zero feel even more hollow. There was nothing he could do -- they were talking about something that was out of their control, something inevitable that they had to accept. Zero didn't know how he could help Kaname accept that in his reality, Zero's time was up.
You couldn't keep living in the past.
"I told a lie earlier," Kaname finally said, burying his face into the crook of Zero's neck. "I know how to send you back."
"What will you do now?"
Zero stood opposite of Kaname in the middle of the large chalk circle they had drawn together on the ground. Kaname had revealed to him that the spell to send him back in time was relatively simple, if not a little (very much) forbidden. It was a ritual that had been mostly -- pardon the pun -- lost to time, but Kaname's memories of his time as the Ancestor allowed him to remember how the spell worked.
Of course, that was followed by Zero's awful realization that Kaname had been purposely going through his most painful and lonely memories in search of a way to bring his lover back from death.
Kaname smiled. "Did you know I buried your ashes in a coffin?" he asked cryptically as the runes around the circle lit up.
Zero's vision was mostly obscured by the bright lights that were dancing around him, but what he saw in Kaname's face made him try and reach out in concern. He couldn't move much, his lower body having mostly faded away.
"Don't worry, Zero. I won't ever let you be lonely. We can sleep for the rest of eternity together."
Zero stared in horror as he realized just what exactly Kaname was planning to do.
"Wait, Kaname -- !"
But his vision of the pureblood was disappearing fast, and his transparent fingertips passed through Kaname without ever reaching the pureblood.
"Zero? Can you hear me?"
Zero groaned, sitting up and cradling his head in his hands. Everything hurt, and the sudden flurry of activity around him only exacerbated his condition.
"He's in stable condition now, Kaname-sama. I believe Kiryuu-san will be able to make a full recovery."
There was the sound of the door opening, and then it clicked shut. Someone's hands were insistently tugging at him, trying to get him to lie back down. However, Zero was more focused on what he had just heard.
That was -- that meant --
Zero blindly pushed away the persistent hands, stumbling to his feet and trying to figure out where he was. There was a sharp pain and belatedly he registered that he had torn an IV drip out of his hand. Just when did he get back to the living room?
But that wasn't important. He had to talk to Kaname, now, before the stupid pureblood went through with his plan to go back to Sleep inside the coffin where he had laid his lover's ashes to rest.
"Zero, calm down," another pair of hands reached for him, reassuring and warm. A familiar aura curled around him like a heavy blanket, steady and firm.
As Zero looked up, he noticed with a jolt that the suffocating presence he had felt was that of his own Kaname, not the lonely mad king of the future. His breath hitched as he froze, eyes hungrily devouring the sight of his lover in front of him.
Did this mean he was back?
Zero took a step forward, and then stumbled into the arms of the very person he wanted to see. Kaname's familiar scent swarmed him as Zero was enveloped into a tight hug, and he relished the rightness of this feeling. Around them, the pureblood's aura finally settled and slowly pulled back until Zero's senses were no longer choking under the strain of Kaname's oppressive power. It didn't matter to Zero though -- in fact, he had welcomed it, seeking confirmation of his lover's presence.
"I'm sorry, Kaname," Zero murmured into the other man's shirt, his hands tightening their grip as he collapsed against Kaname's comforting weight. "I'm sorry I left you alone."
To his irritation, the beautiful warmth was suddenly gone as Kaname pulled away, a look of confusion on his regal features. Kaname cradled Zero's face gently, worried brown eyes scanning Zero in concern. "What's wrong, Zero?" As usual, the pureblood had not failed to pick up the sorrowful undertones in Zero's voice.
Tongue darting out to lick his dry lips, Zero stared at Kaname, a million things on the tip of his tongue yet he found he could not give voice to any of them. He wanted to tell Kaname that they could no longer be lovers, that they should go their separate ways so that Kaname would not have to walk down the path of solitude that Zero had seen. But Zero also knew better. Knew the depth of Kaname's adoration and loyalty, his inability to let go of the ones he loved. The pureblood had destroyed livelihoods and obliterated obstacles in the name of protecting his sister, and even after she fell in love with another, he still remained loyal to her, brushing aside his own pains and embracing the role of being her brother.
Zero wasn't just anyone -- Zero was one of the few, if not the only, people that Kaname trusted wholeheartedly. And when they became lovers, the invisible bond between them had only grown stronger. Kaname would rather burn himself first before letting any harm come to Zero. The price Zero paid for that level of devotion was the resignation to the fact that for as long as he would live, there would be no other for him. Kaname gave Zero his everything, but in return he asked for Zero's everything.
But there was another component to his hesitation.
Zero had loved Kaname long before the pureblood returned his feelings, and for many years he nursed a painfully unrequited love while Kaname attempted to win over Yuuki's heart. Zero wasn't an infinitely generous and kind person; when Kaname pulled him out of the thunderstorm that fateful day and confessed his feelings to Zero with an earnest kiss, Zero had greedily latched onto everything Kaname was willing to give him. Although Zero realized that staying with Kaname would result in the same devastating result he saw, he could not bear to let Kaname go either.
The man that he had visited in the future...he was such a miserable and lonely creature. How could Zero possibly be alright knowing that was the fate awaiting his lover?
Zero shook his head, reaching for Kaname's warmth again. "It's selfish of me, but stay by my side. The experience of complete deprivation and loss...I'm not strong enough to be able to bear another."
The pureblood smiled, his eyes still worried but willing to concede to Zero's wishes for now.
"You needn't ask," Kaname pressed his lips against the side of Zero's neck, baring his own neck to Zero in invitation at the same time. "Regardless of whatever may happen, you will always have me. Nothing can rip me from your side."
As Zero slid his fangs into Kaname's neck and drew on the other's blood, he felt himself floating in the euphoria of Kaname's feelings. He could feel Kaname's love, simultaneously gentle warmth and dark possession, could feel the earnest promise of a love that would never die. He also felt Kaname's worry, from when Zero hadn't returned from the Association as he had promised and then again when he saw Zero's lifeless form laying in the Association infirmary.
Zero pulled away before he could drain Kaname too much, licking at the puncture wounds until they closed up under the careful ministrations of his tongue. He could feel Kaname doing the same to his neck, the pureblood choosing not to take Zero's blood and alternating between small licks and brief kisses instead.
"Better?" Kaname asked Zero finished drinking, his eyes soft. Zero nodded soundlessly.
He stood up a little straighter when he heard the loud sound of fireworks and cheering outside. Wandering over to the window, Zero stared mystified as large sparks lit up the night sky in celebration. He thought he had missed New Years, so what was this?
Zero was floored.
The other Kaname had sent him back to New Years' Eve so that Zero would be able to keep his promise to his own Kaname about not missing the new year together. He swallowed hard, his throat suddenly feeling dry as Zero remembered the lonely pureblood. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry; it was so typical of Kaname to do something like that.
Kaname came to stand beside him, his lover nudging him and leaning down to kiss him gently. "Happy new year, Zero," Kaname whispered against his lips. "Here's to spending many more together."
Holding tightly onto the pureblood, Zero tried not to dwell on the implications of Kaname's words.